Michael Arbeiter
Staff editor Michael Arbeiter’s natural state of being can best be described as “mild panic attack.” His earliest memories of growing up in Queens, New York, involve nighttime conversations with a voice from his bedroom wall (the jury’s still out on what that was all about) and a love for classic television that spawned from the very first time he was allowed to watch “The Munsters.” Attending college at SUNY Binghamton, a 20-year-old Michael learned two things: that he could center his future on this love for TV and movies, and that dragons never actually existed — he was kind of late in the game on that one.
  • Review: 'The Nut Job' Is Not Particularly Funny, Smart, or Heartwarming
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Open Road Films via Everett Collection There is something about The Nut Job that will appeal to the old school cartoon lover — the Bugs Bunny aficionado who revels in the ne'er-do-well antics of scrappy anti-heroes, who appreciates the comic sensibilities of bumbling crooks, who likes watching woodland creatures and doofy humans get konked in the head time after time after time. But where Bugs Bunny cartoons always succeeded was in their wit, a department in which The Nut Job is severely lacking. Just under an hour and a half long, The Nut Job has a minute's worth of genuine laughs, favoring the ostensible charms of goofiness over actual funniness. Usually, when a children's cartoon lacks good humor, it makes up for it (or tries to) with warmth. Here, The Nut Job is also lacking... not entirely devoid, but lacking. The story follows the lazily, albeit appropriately, named Surly Squirrel (Will Arnett, affecting an occasional New York accent to drill home that his character is a jag), who is a self-serving survivalist who hordes as many nuts as he can find for his own safekeeping without concern for his fellow park-dwelling animals — all of whom subscribe to a strange socialistic society led by a solemn raccoon (Liam Neeson). The only animals who sympathize with Surly are his mute pal Buddy, a rat, and his diplomatic fellow squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigl), the latter of whom endures a constant battle to convince Surly to employ his superior food heist skills to help the other rodents. But he won't... and we're never quite sure why. Open Road Films via Everett Collection On the one hand, it could be that he's just a Darwinian individualist. On the other, he drops lines disparaging the aforementioned raccoon for never accepting him, and laments his banishment from the parkgrounds after an unfortunate incident with an inflamed tree. There isn't much work done with the Surly character, so there isn't much of a payoff for his inevitable emotional turnaround. We don't quite understand if he wants to be accepted for who he is, welcomed lovingly into the park community, or adorned with the kind of praise that thick-headed hero squirrel Grayson (Brendan Fraser, giving the funniest performance in the film as a cocky but affectionate dolt) regularly receives. When it comes to films directed at young kids, there's usually the hope that there will be something learned, or some semblance of an emotional lesson carried forth. You can pick from the usual grab bag to piece together whatever it is that The Nut Job wants you to feel: accept other people, it's better to help others than help yourself, friendship is important, never trust a raccoon. But more than any of these, the primary takeaway is screwball cartoon mania that you don't often get to see in Disney, or even DreamWorks. And yes, it'll remind you of Loony Tunes in function, but you'll wonder then just why you aren't laughing. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Kevin Hart Tries to Be Funny in 'Ride Along,' But the Script Just Won't Let Him
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Disney In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy. Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life. But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then? They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat. Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie. Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine! 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Review: Charismatic Chris Pine Deserves Better Than the Dull 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 17, 2014
    Paramount via Everett Collection A quarter of the way into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's far-too-long runtime, the titular hero takes note of a war-time portait in his adversary Viktor Cherevin's office. "Napoleon," Ryan says, proudly identifying the subject of the painting. "Ah," the nefarious Cherevin smiles. "I see you know your history." You'd think we'd get a bit more academic sophistication in a film directed by Kenneth Branagh... hell, in a line delivered by Kenneth Branagh. But this is par for the course in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's script. And even more problematic, it's the thing that sticks with me most only a few days after seeing the movie. Well, that and the fact that Chris Pine and Keira Knightley make for the most compatibly attractive onscreen couple I have ever seen. Aside from these standout elements, the film dissolves into a 105-minute (jeez, it feels twice that) blur of running, driving, choking, shooting, and the like. But it's not a painful jaunt all the while, and this is thanks almost entirely to Pine. An actor who we remember popping up in early Lindsay Lohan movies and thinking little of, Pine has earned his place at the center of franchises like Star Trek and, this weekend's box office intake permitting, Jack Ryan. He maintains character and personality in the movie's heightened scenes of "the first kill" and pulling the long con on Cherevin. With a better, smarter script, Pine could thrive in an action hero role like Ryan, but here he's only left to occasionally cut through a staunch layer of boredom. Paramount via Everett Collection The other winning factor of Jack Ryan is in its female lead: Knightley and her character Dr. Cathy Mullins. Another pervasive charmer, Knightley manages to inject a wealth of vitality into the movie at the points most desperate for some flavor — so much so that we're not simply thrilled, but relieved when she shows up unexpectedly to tag along with boyfriend Jack on his mission to... to... well, it's something to do with stopping terrorism. Trust me, you'll forget the specifics as soon as you leave the theater, if not sooner. But the most impressive part is that Shadow Recruit actually gives Knightley something to do as Mullins. She doesn't just wait around and lament the life choices of her danger-prone boyfriend, she gets in on the action. And we're glad for it. Without her, it'd just be Pine. And as much as we like him, he needs somebody else with a personality to play off (sorry, Kevin Costner, but you're not exactly playing your A Game here). In short, there's almost nothing to say about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which in itself says a lot — it's dull, it's slow, and it's got two stars who deserve a lot better than the material they're dealt. Aw hell, maybe the sequel (yeah, we've come out of denial... it's gonna happen) will up the ante on the script, and not mistake knowing who Napoleon is for being a history expert. 2.5/5 Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
  • Predicting Which Best Picture Nominee Will Win the Oscar Based on Movie Titles
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    The Oscar nominations came out on Thursday morning, and as of now, it's anybody's race. Some say 12 Years a Slave has it in the bag, while others think American Hustle will snatch the Best Picture trophy. There's no one way to know for sure — does the Academy weigh emotional impact? Flashy performances? The film's lasting message? How about titles? Yes, you can tell a lot about a film by its title, and about its Oscar chances, too. We've compiled some handy data about each Best Picture nominee's title and what it says about the film's chances come time to hand out the awards. (You can also head over to BBC America to check out this fantastic infographic that predicts the Best Picture winner!) AMERICAN HUSTLE Columbia Pictures Movies with the word "America" in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (An American in Paris; American Beauty) get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (America, America; American Graffiti) Movies whose titles refers to a crime or act of win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (Mutiny on the Bounty; The Sting) get nominated for BP, but not win: 11 (The Racket; She Done Him Wrong; Imitation of Life; Libeled Lady; Grand Illusion; The Caine Mutiny; The Hustler; Mutiny on the Bounty; The Killing Fields; The Fugitive; Traffic) CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection Movies with a main character's surname in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 10 (The Great Ziegfeld; Ben-Hur; Tom Jones; Patton; Annie Hall; Kramer vs. Kramer; Gandhi; Schindler’s List; Forrest Gump; Shakespeare in Love) get nominated for BP, but not win: 45 (Disraeli; Trader Horn; Arrowsmith; The House of Rothschild; Alice Adams; Captain Blood; David Copperfield; Ruggles of Red Gap; Anthony Adverse; Dodsworth; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; The Story of Louis Pasteur; The Life of Emile Zola; The Adventures of Robin Hood; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Kitty Foyle; Citizen Kane; Here Comes Mr. Jordan; Sergeant York; Mrs. Miniver; The Magnificent Ambersons; Madame Curie; Wilson; Mildred Pierce; Johnny Belinda; Julius Caesar; Mister Roberts; The Diary of Anne Frank; Elmer Gantry; Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins; Doctor Zhivago; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Doctor Dolittle; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Barry Lyndon; Prizzi’s Honor; Jerry Maguire; Good Will Hunting; Saving Private Ryan; Erin Brokovich; Capote; Michael Clayton; Lincoln) Movies whose titles include a military win a Best Picture Oscar: get nominated for BP, but not win: 6 (The Smiling Lieutenant; Captain Blood; Captains Courageous; Sergeant York; Saving Private Ryan; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Focus Features via Everett Collection Movies with a city name in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 4 (Cimarron; Casablanca; An American in Paris; Chicago) get nominated for BP, but not win: 18 (Hollywood Revue; Shanghai Express; San Francisco; In Old Chicago; The Philadelphia Story; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Casablanca; Roman Holiday; Peyton Place; Judgment and Nuremberg; Chinatown; Nashville; Fargo; L.A. Confidential; Gangs of New York; Munich; Letters from Iwo Jima; Midnight in Paris) Movies whose titles seem like they should probably have a possessive apostrophe, but don' win a Best Picture Oscar: get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Boys Town; Kings Row; Dead Poets Society; Howards End) GRAVITY Warner Bros via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are a single intangible win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Crash) get nominated for BP, but not win: 8 (Alibi; Suspicion; Crossfire; Deliverance; Traffic; Atonement; Inception; Moneyball) Movies whose titles end in "ity" win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (From Here to Eternity) get nominated for BP, but not win: 3 (Double Indemnity; Atlantic City; Sense and Sensibility) HER Warner Bros via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are made up three letters or win a Best Picture Oscar: get nominated for BP, but not win: 4 (Z; JFK; Ray; Up) Movies that have the word "her" in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (Ben-Hur) get nominated for BP, but not win: 1 (Hannah and Her Sisters) NEBRASKA Paramount via Everett Collection Movies with U.S. state names in their win a Best Picture Oscar: get nominated for BP, but not win: 2 (In Old Arizona; Mississippi Burning) *Note: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gangs of New York both refer to cities, not states, and the "Virginia" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a human woman. We loved Nebraska, but this is really the only one we could think of for it. Sorry, Alexander Payne. Sorry, everybody. PHILOMENA Weinstein Company via Everett Collection Movies whose titles are just a main character's first win a Best Picture Oscar: 5 (Rebecca; Hamlet; Marty; Gigi; Oliver!) get nominated for BP, but not win: 20 (Skippy; Cleopatra; Ivanhoe; Shane; Fanny; Cleopatra; Alfie; Lenny; Rocky; Julia; Norma Rae; Tess; Bugsy; Babe; Elizabeth; Seabiscuit; Ray; Juno; Precious; Hugo) Movies whose titles were mispronounced by Leonardo DiCaprio on live win a Best Picture Oscar: get nominated for BP, but not win: 0 (There can be only one Philomania.) 12 YEARS A SLAVE Fox Searchlight Movies with numbers in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 6 (It Happened One Night; Around the World in 80 Days; The Godfather Part II; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Million Dollar Baby; Slumdog Millionaire) get nominated for BP, but not win: 36 (Seventh Heaven; Five Star Final; One Hour with You; 42nd Street; The Private Life of Henry VIII; One Night of Love; Broadway Melody of 1936; A Tale of Two Cities; Three Smart Girls; One Hundred Men and a Girl; Four Daughters; One Foot in Heaven; 49th Parallel; Henry V; Miracle on 34th Street; A Letter to Three Wives; Twelve O’Clock High; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Three Coins in the Fountain; The Ten Commandments; 12 Angry Men; The Defiant Ones; A Thousand Clowns; Anne of the Thousand Days; Five Easy Pieces; Born on the Fourth of July; The Godfather Part III; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Apollo 13; The Sixth Sense; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; District 9; 127 Hours; Toy Story 3; Zero Dark Thirty) Movies that refer to a unit of time in their win a Best Picture Oscar: 2 (The Best Years of Our Lives; Around the World in 80 Days) get nominated for BP, but not win: 9 (One Hour with You; Lady for a Day; The Yearling; The Longest Day; Anne of the Thousand Days; Dog Day Afternoon; Remains of the Day; The Hours; 127 Hours) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Paramount via Everett Collection Movies whose titles include mention of an win a Best Picture Oscar: 3 (The Deer Hunter; Dances with Wolves; The Silence of the Lambs) get nominated for BP, but not win: 17 (Of Mice and Men; The Little Foxes; The Maltese Falcon; The Ox-Bow Incident; The Snake Pit; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Lion in Winter; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Dog Day Afternoon; The Elephant Man; Raging Bull; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Black Swan; War Horse) Movies whose titles include the name of a win a Best Picture Oscar: 1 (The Broadway Melody) get nominated for BP, but not win: 5 (42nd Street; The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Broadway Melody of 1936; Miracle on 34th Street; Sunset Boulevard) Cast your bets, folks. Captain Phillips looks like it has this one locked down. *Special thanks to writers Julia Emmanuele and Jordan Smith for helping to compile data and entertaining the madness of this post, and to our CTO Greg Zimerman for recovering hours of work after my Word Doc crashed. You're a hero, Greg. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • The Absolute Worst, Most Despicable Snubs of the 2014 Oscar Nominations
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    Studio Canal Let's start off with something positive...Leonardo DiCaprio earned a Best Actor nod. Not a shocker, although with the wealth of strong male lead performances this year, a few of us were betting that the Wolf of Wall Street star would be edged out of the running. Smile, folks. It'll be the last time you do today.  And now onto the bad news...There are a wealth of deserving performers recognized in the Best Supporting Actor category this year, but Rush's Daniel Bruhl remains unjustly omitted, leaving room for the far more flashy albeit one-note turn by Jonah Hill in Wolf of Wall Street. And the really bad news...That "edging out" that we were worried would inflict Leo? It actually happened to Tom Hanks. In Captain Phillips, Hanks gave one of the year's most terrific lead performances, turning what could have been a colorless thriller into a humane, engaging, and really eviscerating movie. And the even worse news...What the hell is up with that Best Original Score category? In lieu of truly artful orchestration, like that in Stoker, Prince Avalanche, The Wind Rises, and (we know this would never earn a nomination, but it's still magnificent) Spring Breakers, we see lifeless fare like the scores from Saving Mr. Banks and The Book Thief take nominations. F**k that noise. I'm starting to feel ill here...The omission of Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell from the Best Documentary Feature category. After the past two years of celebrating filmmaking and storytelling in movies like Argo and The Artist, the Academy overlooks the most wholly invested tribute to the idea of story in years. Oh, and this is just bulls**t...The inscrutable absence of Inside Llewyn Davis in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and (most shockingly) Best Original Song categories.Our Best Picture Gripe: With only nine films nominated for BP, Llewyn Davis can't even be accused as falling victim to a full slate of superior projects — although to claim said superiority in half of the films on this list would be criminal (in the rest, it'd be simply laughable).Our Best Director Gripe: Admittedly, the Coen Brothers were dark horses in the Director category this year with Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and Alfonso Cuaron being sure things. We're not at all displeased that the final position going to Alexander Payne for Nebraska, but we are sad to see the brilliantly constructed New York tragedy earn no recognition.Our Best Original Screenplay Gripe: Things are getting even more outrageous with these snubs. The brilliant, lyrical character piece that is Llewyn should, at the very least, taken one major category this year, that being for writing. The clunky Dallas Buyers Club and the cartoonish American Hustle both got notice for scripting, while this deft and dense study of human misery and toxicity gets squat.Our Best Original Song Gripe: But NONE of these snubs is more offensive than this one. To not even nominate Inside Llewyn Davis' signature song "Fare Thee Well," which is at once beautiful as an individual piece of music and unbelievable powerful as an anchor to the Coens' spectacular story is... well, it's really just kind of weird. But we guess Despicable Me 2 needed that nod for "Happy," right? Follow @Hollywood_com
  • And the 2014 Oscar Nominees Are...
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 16, 2014
    Warner Bros / Columbia Pictures / FOX Searchlight And the nominees for the 86th Annual Academy Awards, celebrating the fantastic cinematic year of 2013, are... Best PictureAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerNebraskaPhilomena12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street  Best DirectorDavid O. Russell, American HustleAlfonso Cuaron, GravityAlexander Payne, NebraskaSteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street Best ActressAmy Adams, American HustleCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, GravityJudi Dench, PhilomenaMeryl Streep, August: Osage County Best ActorChristian Bale, American HustleBruce Dern, NebraskaLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a SlaveMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Best Adapted ScreenplayBefore MidnightCaptain PhillipsPhilomena12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street Best Original ScreenplayAmerican HustleBlue JasmineDallas Buyers ClubHerNebraska Best Supporting ActorBarkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsBradley Cooper, American HustleMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall StreetJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Best Supporting ActressSally Hawkins, Blue JasmineJennifer Lawrence, American HustleLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyJune Squibb, Nebraska Best Animated FeatureThe CroodsDespicable Me 2Ernest & CelestineFrozenThe Wind Rises Best Documentary FeatureThe Act of KillingCutie and the BoxerDirty WarsThe Square20 Feet from Stardom Best Foreign Language FilmThe Broken Circle BreakdownThe Great BeautyThe HuntThe Missing PictureOmar Best Original Song"Alone Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone"Happy" from Despicable Me 2"Let It Go" from Frozen"The Moon Song" from Her"Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Best Original ScoreThe Book ThiefGravityHerPhilomenaSaving Mr. Banks Best CinematographyThe GrandmasterGravityInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaPrisoners Best EditingAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravity12 Years a Slave Best Animated Short Film"Feral""Get a Horse!""Mr. Hublot""Possessions""Room on the Broom" Best Documentary Short"CaveDigger""Facing Fear""Karama Has No Walls""The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life""Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall" Best Production DesignAmerican HustleGravityThe Great GatsbyHer12 Years a Slave Best Costume DesignAmerican HustleThe GrandmasterThe Great GatsbyThe Invisible Woman12 Years a Slave Best Makeup and HairstylingDallas Buyers ClubJackass Presents: Bad GrandpaThe Lone Ranger Best Sound EditingAll Is LostCaptain PhillipsGravityThe Hobbit: Desolation of SmaugLone Survivor Best Sound MixingCaptain PhillipsGravityThe Hobbit: Desolation of SmaugInside Llewyn DavisLone Survivor
  • 'New Girl' Throws Winston into the Sitcom Cop Problem
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 15, 2014
    Greg Gayne/FOX Forgive me, but I'm about to make reference to Zach Braff's movie Garden State. There is a scene early on in the movie that shows Braff, having recently returned home to New Jersey for the first time in 10 years, bumping into an old friend of his who has, ostensibly, become a police officer. The following exchange takes place: ZACH BRAFF: "You're a cop, Kenny? ... Why?"KENNY, THE COP: "I don't know, man. Had nothing better to do." And that, in a nutshell, is how mainstream comedy views law enforcement. Nothing better to do with a character? Make him a cop. That's what they did with Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation, sparking the new calling in the Season 4 finale after realizing that they had nothing else to do with the character in the year to come... before they got tired of that storyline, failed him out of the police academy, and whisked him off to Europe. It appears to be what they're doing with Annie Edison on Community, having her shirk her sensible and fitting career in hospital administration for an out-of-the-blue passion for forensic analysis. And it's what New Girl is doing with Winston now. While Jess and Nick and Coach are off doing something regarding basketball or sex in this week's episode of New Girl, Winston decides to shadow Schmidt at his marketing firm in order to figure out if it might be a field conducive to his unusual skill set. In the process, Winston inadvertently (and with help from Cece) identifies a far more preferable course of action: becoming a police officer. Why? Because he enjoyed cracking the puzzling veneer of Schmidt's elderly work rival Ed (Bob Gunton, slingin' some terrific comedy, that ol' so-and-so) and likes "roaming around" ... or something. If we're desperate to successfully adhere this to any established functions of Winston's character, I guess we can allocate his love for puzzles and his Season 2 Halloween costume. But all in all, this is New Girl shoe-horning its least figured out character into what television comedy seems to think is an all-purpose career. One that anybody can pursue at any time, without it being too severe a narrative transgression. But would Winston really work as a cop? Would Andy Dwyer have? Will Annie Edison? What about Ashton Kutcher on That '70s Show, or Roseanne's sister? Why do so many shows think they can slap aimless do-nothings (and Annie) with a badge and watch them thrive? Shouldn't being a cop get the same kind of character-based weight as being a teacher, a marketing agent, a lawyer, a bartender, a model, or a coach? Maybe New Girl will prove that Winston is, in fact, perfectly constructed for a life on the force, but we're not going to hold our breath for any revelations of inspiration with this character. Hey, at least we have Brooklyn Nine-Nine ... or should we say, Golden Globe-winner Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Darren Aronofsky Is Adding Nick Nolte to the 'Noah' Cast Now? That's a Bad Sign
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 14, 2014
    Paramount Usually, in the home stretch before a movie's release, the team is concerned with churning out trailers and subway posters and scheduling Conan appearances. But with only two months to go before Darren Aronofsky's Noah hits theaters, the director has opted to do something rather... unsettling: add a major character in the form of Nick Nolte. The mastermind behind Black Swan tweeted the news on Tuesday, instilling in fans the same emotional discord embodied in the rattled photograph of the 72-year-old acting legend. We've seen the first trailers for Noah, and were none too enthused by what Paramount was setting up for us then. Does Aronofsky's last minute casting shakeup indicate a lack of confidence in his established project? Does he think that bringing on the 48 Hrs. star as Samyaza, a "watcher," will finally make this a Biblical epic worth seeing? Right now, we don't know what to think about Noah. While the name Aronofsky screams imagination and reinvention, what we've seen thus far is just big, loud, clunky, ugly, and dull. Everything we would expect from a Renny Harlin Noah. Not what any of us had in mind for Aronofsky's vision, and probably not what he had in mind either. From the looks of it all, the terrifically ambitious project has gotten away from him, and he's just now scrapping together to turn it into something that works. Sony Pictures via Everett Collection But just how much good can casting Nick Nolte do? At what point in the process did Aronofsky identify his character Samyaza, an angel consumed by lust, as a vital part of the story? And more importantly, will this mean that Noah's release will be pushed past March 28? We've seen a lot of distribution date juggling in the past year: The Great Gatsby was booted from winter 2012 to summer 2013, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation from summer 2012 to spring 2013, earning mixed and negative reviews, respectively. The Monuments Men, which was supposed to release at the end of last year, will be hitting theaters in February to yet unseen results. In short, we're worried. Since Aronofsky announced Noah, we've held out for the next breathtaking, psychologically dense epic. But all signs point to disaster. Could Nolte's inclusion actually save this picture? Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • 'How I Met Your Mother' Recap... Or Should We Say Re-Slap
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 14, 2014
    Ron P. Jaffe/Fox I've heard complaints since September — from Internet commenters and the rare human being I brave contact with — about the wedding weekend parameters of the final season of How I Met Your Mother. Personally, it works for me. I've grown weary of the lazy stories tied to the apartment, MacLaren's, and the external shot of the staircase leading up from MacLaren's to the apartment. There's a new life force in this final season, and it is thanks in part to the urgency inherent in the matrimonial setting. Of course, that isn't to say that an occasional break from that routine can't be fun: "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra" proves just how much fun it can be. Throwing all guise of realism out the window, "Slapsgiving 3" might well be the most absurd episode of How I Met Your Mother in years, possibly ever. Admist a MacLaren's flashback, Marshall institutes a second flashback (Inception!) to his tutelige in Shanghai under the three greatest slappers in the history of mankind. A triad of warriors who have trained him in the mastery of the perfect slap so that he might bequeath the skeptic Barney with more pain than he might imagine. An episode devoted to Community levels of trope parody, How I Met Your Mother banks more on the viewers' familiarity with Kill Bill: Volume 1 than with the movies to which Kill Bill: Volume 1 owes its own identity. But the 30 minutes of nonsense — a completely fabricated account of Marshall's year-long stay in Shanghai, training under these three mystical sages, and love affair with the 106-year-old White Flower — is quite a funny, extremely silly good time. That doesn't mean the episode won't be exempt to criticism. The complete abandonment of the narrative might ruffle a few feathers. More so, questions are raised upon catching glimpse of Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, and Josh Radnor dressed up in mythical Chinese garb and affecting accents to an eyebrow-raising degree. But it's less a racial joke than it is a cinematic one.  We're not quite sure if this closes the door on the slapping game for How I Met Your Mother. Yes, there is one more slap to go, but only a few weeks left in the series... two independent slaps so close together? That's unprecedented! We're more inclined to believe that we might leave the gang with the one slap hanging over Barney's head forever. Or maybe we'll catch up with the gang in an epilogue scene that shows a 50-year-old Marshall breaking Barney's jaw with his monstrous palm. Next week, we'll return to form (or this show's equivalent to form). But for a brief break in the monotony, "Slapmarra" was the sort of silly bit of fun to cap How I Met Your Mother's favorite running gag. How I Met Your Mother airs Monday nights at 8 PM on CBS. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //
  • Are Comic Book Fans Losing Their Grip in the Marvel Universe?
    By: Michael Arbeiter Jan 13, 2014
    WENN / Marvel There are three ways to sell a movie: sex, violence, and Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie Golden Globe Award winners. Super producer Kevin Feige knows this, and he has roped Sunday night's victor Michael Douglas into the Ant-Man cast. Not a match you would have made, but this is the direction that superhero movies are heading in. No longer is Marvel stardom limited to refurbished comic actors, abdominably-gifted newcomers, or future self-obsessed outsider art renegades. This latest wave of comic book movies has seen the inclusion of performers of the highest esteem. Douglas joins Paul Rudd, the media-literate public's equivalent of the freakin' pope, in action comedy master Edgar Wright's Ant-Man feature, an announcement that comes a few months after Guardians of the Galaxy tacked on the likes of legends Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro, Academy pet Bradley Cooper, and mainstream comedy mainstay John C. Reilly. Actors with varied, successful careers are flocking to the superhero circuit — good news for the masses, who are taking new interest in this line of releases (which, in turn, is great news for the studios), but is it good news for the existing fans? While we've seen broad audiences take to superhero flicks since Spider-Man and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man represent a league of superhero series that have, up until now, thrived on small but devoted communities of comic book fandom. The announcement of their film adaptations sparked tiny bursts of glee, but also questions: how are they going to do this right? Guardians and Ant-Man are especially weird properties that A) wouldn't appeal to Avengers-sized audiences as is, but B) would outrage the established fans were it to reform toward general palatability. We can't assume just by the casting of Rudd and Douglas that Ant-Man is going the Hollywood angle, but we can wonder exactly what it has up its sleeve. Iron Man 3 presents a good example of the concerns of die hard fans (not Die Hard fans though — they probably loved Iron Man 3, which is exactly what we're talking about). The third chapter for Tony Stark, handled by action-comedy kingpin Shane Black, transformed the genre of the Robert Downey Jr. trilogy into something like that which you'd see in his Lethal Weapon scripts, or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And to those not stringently adhered to the Iron Man mythology, the movie was fantastic. Fun, goofy, malleable, creative, and hilarious. To those who wanted the Mandarin and Extremis they knew from the comics, it was... enraging. But more even than the issue of contextual changes is that of the sense of the aforementioned communities of comic book fandom. There is something special about being part of a small union of like-minded, unappreciated folk — e.g., being one of the few who hopped on the Arrested Development bandwagon before the series got its post cancelation hop-ons (but to be fair, you're gonna get some hop-ons). This adherence to exclusivity, this "I was into it before everyone else" mentality, they're not entirely healthy or condusive to authentic appreciation of a piece of art. But the phenomenon was born from necessity: way back when geekiness of all sorts was brandished and those belonging to said genus were ostracized (you know, in that long dead era known as high school), it was the very idea of finding others like you and reveling in your elite appreciation for some piece of underdog genius. It helped many of us get through tough times. Love for comic books, specifically — and what's more, the idea that you were one of a small, special, unique force of "superhuman" devotees — charged some much-needed positive vibes. And although we all should be more than willing to open up our beloved titles and characters to the world, there is always that hesitation. Does Marvel expanding its reach to everyone, does everyone's appreciation of what you once held dear and sacred make it less so? Do these stories about "different" people need to be read and loved only by people who identify as different in order to have their desired impact? Maybe. But figure this: maybe, this way, they're reaching a young watcher or reader who might otherwise not have had the opportunity to benefit from their glory. Maybe this is the only way that these tales of justice, strength, humanity, integrity, and imagination can get through to everyone who needs them. Don't feel as if you're being forced to sacrifice your place in an "elite" supergroup. Think of it as the characters that saved you moving on to do the same for the rest of the world. Follow @Michael Arbeiter // | Follow @Hollywood_com //